Have you ever had a confrontation with someone where your ego was screaming at you that it’s all their fault, but deep down inside you could feel your heart and soul trying to whisper just the opposite? I actually had one of those situations arise during an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) retreat I was on this past weekend where my own heart and soul had to end up wrestling my ego for resolution of a conflict that transpired between another person and myself. But before I mention the specific details of that situation, some background information might be useful for the re-telling of these events.
This AA retreat I was on actually had a name for it and was called a Matt Talbot weekend. Matt Talbot is actually the name of an Irish man from Dublin, who had become addicted to alcohol at a very early age in life around the turn of the 20th century. He later experienced a spiritual conversion and went on to lead a life of sobriety because of it. These retreats have been established based upon his spiritual experiences and are an opportunity for recovering alcoholics to enhance their spirituality and sober way of life, in a setting that promotes fellowship and sharing throughout the weekend. The people who attend these retreats are all recovering alcoholics. There are many different Matt Talbot groups that have been formed over the years in the United States, Canada, and Ireland and each continue to hold retreats throughout the year to helping those in AA recovery.
Today, I belong to Group #70, which meets at a retreat center in the mountains of New Hampshire twice a year. This wasn’t my initial group though as I first experienced a Matt Talbot retreat around six year ago in a different location with Group #5. And those experiences from that first retreat became the driving force for the confrontation that ensued this past weekend between this other man and myself.
It started late this past Saturday evening while I was sitting at a table playing some cards after the events for that retreat day had ended. I had begun a conversation by asking one of the other card players if they still went on Group #5’s retreats. He responded that he hadn’t in awhile but planned on going back. I proceeded to ask some of the other people sitting there if they too still attended #5’s weekends. None of them did and I took that moment to say I was glad that I had found #70 because of what had transpired during that one and only #5 retreat I had attended. Without anyone even asking, I explained I had been gay bashed by a member of that group behind my back during that weekend and hadn’t experienced much in the way of fun activities and fellowship there either. Suddenly from behind me came the stern voice of man who identified himself as someone who currently holds a position for that group. As he walked out of the room in frustration, he said in anger that I should be more aware of my surroundings. My ego quickly took control and tried to defend itself as I verbalized my irritation again about that guy who had been anti-gay and said things being my back. As my retreat brother left the room pissed, his last words were essentially to get over it.
For the next hour, the conversations I held with the people around me were all about trying to prove that it was his resentment and that I held no fault in the matter. Over and over and over again, my ego came up with all the reasons why I should be entitled to my opinion about my experiences from that #5 retreat. But there was a small nudge that continued to occur within me that kept trying to show me the part I played in this confrontation. My ego wasn’t having it though, so after an hour of getting nowhere with it trying to convince everyone I was right and that man was wrong, I decided to head to my room and pray instead. This alone was a major step of growth for me as I know that not more than a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have cared at all about that man’s feelings.
As I kneeled in my room and prayed, I asked God for guidance. And it was in those moments of silence, I realized I was still harboring a resentment towards that man from Group #5 who hadn’t liked gay people. I even became aware that I had in turn spent years bashing his group any chance I got because of him. Immediately, I prayed for love, forgiveness, and peace for that man who hadn’t liked my sexuality. I did the same prayer for Group #5, as well as for the other man who had gotten in the confrontation with me and I immediately felt better. The next morning, I asked God if an amends was in order and then went into my daily 35 minute meditation. It was during that meditation I received a very strong and resounding yes, as well as the words to use for that amends. Shortly thereafter, I found that man and did just that. And ironically, he made an amends back to me as well, and the two of us ended it with an embrace. As we walked away, heading to the next event, I felt a thousand times better than the previous evening when my ego had me in its grips.
All too often, during confrontations and storms like this that can happen in life for any of us, our egos do their best to take over control on how we react in them. It’s during those heightened moments where it’s always best to step away from the situation temporarily, to take a deep breath, and then to seek guidance to a Higher Power through prayer. In doing so, not only will the heart and soul be able to wrestle away that control from the ego, you will also end up feeling in the end, so much lighter and so much brighter.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson